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Dyslexia

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability, and Reading Rockets gets lots of questions about it, including what it is, warning signs, what to do, and how to help.

Click below for answers to the following dyslexia questions:

Question 1: What is dyslexia?
Question 2: I suspect my child might have dyslexia. What should I do?
Question 3: How should I teach beginning reading to primary students with special needs?
Question 4: How common are language-based learning disabilities?
Question 5: My child has a learning disability and I'm concerned that the reading program her school uses is ineffective. Can you recommend a reading program?
Question 6: How do I find a tutor for my child with dyslexia?
Question 7: My child was tested in kindergarten for dyslexia but they didn't find anything. What should I do now that he is in 3rd grade and still struggling with reading and writing?
Question 8: My daughter just started preschool and I have noticed that sometimes she writes letters backwards. Should I be concerned?
Question 9: Is there anything I can do at home to help my dyslexic child learn to read and spell?
Question 10: If my husband is dyslexic, is there a possibility that my children will be dyslexic too?
Question 11: We scan materials for students to use on Kurzweil 3000 at school. Could you recommend an efficient way to scan and email a textbook page home to a student with dyslexia? He has Natural Reader on his home computer, but he does not have Kurzweil.
Question 12: When I'm reading, it is helpful for me to both see and hear the word. Where can I find software that can read text to me when I'm online? I need something that can read websites and other text aloud to me.
Question 13: Some of our students read very slowly. We are wondering about providing recorded books. We would like to give them access to print as they learn to read. Can you tell us where we can get recorded books? Any advice on how to make the textbooks and other st
Question 14: My son is going into 11th grade. He has a learning disability with a very "hands on" learning style. However, he cannot write to save his life, take notes, etc. What computer programs do you recommend? What laptops would you recommend?
Question 15: I work in a public library and want to be sure that our resources are accessible to all our patrons, including those with disabilities. What resources should we make available and where can we find additional information about making libraries accessible

Question:

What is dyslexia?

Answer:

Dyslexia is a language-based disability derived from differences in brain structure and brain function. Common areas of difficulty include reading, writing, and spelling, information processing, short-term memory, planning, and organization.

Although dyslexia presents itself somewhat differently in each person, some salient characteristics can be determined through evaluation. The following articles can help you learn more:

For more information, browse our dyslexia resources or contact the International Dyslexia Association.


Question:

I suspect my child might have dyslexia. What should I do?

Answer:

It is important to address reading problems early so you can begin getting your child the appropriate help. You can use our Target the Problem activity to get a general idea of your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses. More comprehensive information can be found on the article page.

The following articles describe specific characteristics common to students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. You may find it helpful to read these articles to determine whether you see similar characteristics in your child:

If, after reading these articles, you still suspect your child is showing signs of having a learning disability, it is within your rights as a parent to request a free educational evaluation through your public school. Whether or not he is found eligible for special services, the evaluation will help determine your child's academic strengths and weaknesses and how best he learns. The following articles describe the steps involved in the evaluation process, including your rights as a parent:

After this process is complete, you can use the information from the evaluation to help you make a decision about the next step in your child's educational path.


Question:

How should I teach beginning reading to primary students with special needs?

Answer:

Reading Rockets has a wealth of information about teaching children to read. Here are some articles that provide basic knowledge on this topic:

Reading Rockets offers strategies, lessons, and activities designed to help young children learn to read. Its resources assist parents, teachers, and other educators in working with struggling readers who need some additional help developing these reading and comprehension skills. Our sister site, Colorín Colorado, which is designed for Spanish-speaking parents and educators of English language learners, also has excellent information for anyone interested in early reading instruction. You can also try TeachingLD, a site for Special Education teachers.


Question:

How common are language-based learning disabilities?

Answer:

According to the International Dyslexia Association, about 13-14% of the students in the United States qualify for special education. Roughly half of these students have a learning disability, or LD. Of those with LD, 85% experience primary deficits in reading and language. Overall, between 15-20% of the general population display symptoms of dyslexia, the most common language-based learning disability.

Fortunately, there is plenty of information on how to address the needs of these children. Strategies and resources to help children with learning disabilities are available on Reading Rockets and our sister site, LD OnLine.


Question:

My child has a learning disability and I'm concerned that the reading program her school uses is ineffective. Can you recommend a reading program?

Answer:

Although we don't review specific reading programs, the following articles outline the elements that all effective reading instruction contains. From these articles, you can see how your child’s reading program compares:

This next article also lists characteristics of effective reading programs for students with learning disabilities and includes information and worksheets to help determine the quality of a specific reading program:

Also, we recommend a report from the American Federation of Teachers called Building on the Best, Learning from What Works: Five Promising Remedial Reading Intervention Programs.

Have a meeting with your child's teachers so that you can share your concerns. Any reading remediation that she receives should be individualized to her specific needs, because no pre-packaged programs are able to address every child’s areas of weakness, strengths, and the instructional methods with which they learn best. You and your child's teachers should work together to ensure that her specific needs are being met. This may require an IEP meeting to develop a new IEP with more skill-specific educational goals and objectives. If you are concerned that the school is not interpreting your child’s IEP correctly, here are some steps to take.

You may also be interested to know about Learning Ally and WordTalk, two programs designed for students with LD, ADHD, or visual impairments. Providing accommodations in the form of read aloud or dictation software can lessen some of the burden experienced by struggling readers.


Question:

How do I find a tutor for my child with dyslexia?

Answer:

There are several national organizations that may be able help you through this process and give local professional referrals. For instance, you can contact the International Dyslexia Association, or the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA). In addition, you may wish to contact your local school district to learn of any free tutoring services offered, or a local university that may have a list of teachers who also tutor.

Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy has a useful nationwide search tool. Use it to locate tutors and other professionals in your area. You can also contact the Parent Educational Advocacy Resource Center in your state for more options.

Also, LD OnLine’s Yellow Pages service and LD Resources section have a great deal of helpful information. Search by state for organizations, or find a parent advocacy group near you.

Lastly, you may be interested in Eye to Eye, a national LD/ADHD movement that pairs students with LD and caring, knowledgeable mentors with similar experiences. The mentorship program provides a fun and safe environment for children to realize their potential as learners.

You may also want to ask the teachers and guidance counselor at your child’s school for suggestions for a tutor, since they will be familiar with his/her specific strengths and weaknesses. Local schools often know of great tutors located in the school’s neighborhood.

Remember to ask potential tutors about their experiences and what they specialize in before you choose a provider. You want to make sure that the person you choose will be a good match for your child.


Question:

My child was tested in kindergarten for dyslexia but they didn't find anything. What should I do now that he is in 3rd grade and still struggling with reading and writing?

Answer:

It is often challenging to detect learning difficulties in very young children. When your child was tested in kindergarten, he may have been able to compensate for his learning challenges to the point where there was little discrepancy between his ability and achievement. In order to be diagnosed with a learning disability and receive special education services, a child must exhibit both a processing deficit and a discrepancy between what he is capable of doing and what he is actually achieving in school.

As your child gets older, it may become increasingly difficult for him to compensate, and the gap between his ability and potential achievement may widen. If your child does have a learning disability, it will be easier to detect now than when he was in kindergarten. The following articles describe characteristics common to children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Look through them to see if you recognize any of your child’s challenges in these descriptions:

If you see some of these characteristics in your child, you may want to request that his school give him an educational evaluation. It is within your rights as a parent to request a free evaluation and to have a vote throughout the evaluation process.

The educational evaluation will help you and the school better understand your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses and how he learns best. The following articles will give you a clearer understanding of the evaluation process:

Please be sure to share any of the interventions that you have been trying at home and the concerns you have. The following articles may give you some insight as to how you can make the most of the local screening meeting and subsequent meetings in this process:

Your willingness to help your child at home will go a long way in giving him academic and emotional support, as well as the comfort of knowing that he is not alone in his struggles. The articles below suggest ways you and your child can work together at home:

Remember that you are the strongest and most knowledgeable advocate for your son, so trust your instincts and don’t give up! The sooner your son receives the assistance he needs and the quicker you and his teachers work together to develop a plan for home and school, the closer he will be to fully realizing his academic potential.


Question:

My daughter just started preschool and I have noticed that sometimes she writes letters backwards. Should I be concerned?

Answer:

Writing letters backwards is a normal part of developing writing skills in preschool. If you have other reasons to suspect dyslexia (like parents or relatives with dyslexia, or problems identifying sounds or learning to say the alphabet), you should continue to monitor her progress and document your observations in case you see signs of a bigger problem.

Keep practicing with her by doing fun writing activities at home, like writing a shopping list, or writing a letter to a relative. Most of her early mistakes will be part of the process of learning to write, so model the right way, but don't hold her to it too early! She is in an experimentation phase with this skill.

The Reading Rockets website has articles that may be of interest to you as you help your child learn to read, including sections on writing and developmental milestones.



Question:

Is there anything I can do at home to help my dyslexic child learn to read and spell?

Answer:

Even though the English language is complex, dyslexic children CAN learn phonics! They need the support of a sequential, multisensory, structured reading program, and solid reading support at home (including reading together, playing games that isolate sounds or build words, etc.).

The Reading Rockets website focuses entirely on reading and how to help kids who struggle. See, for example, the section on strategies to help kids who struggle. Also check out this page for parents, which gives you tips on what you can do at home.

And here is a link to LD Online's collection of articles on dyslexia.


Question:

If my husband is dyslexic, is there a possibility that my children will be dyslexic too?

Answer:

Dyslexia is a hereditary condition, so if you have a history of dyslexia in your family, it's a good idea to get information now so that you can catch early warning signs in your own children. However, children today do not have to struggle as much with their dyslexia as the generations before them. We have a greater understanding of what it means to be dyslexic and we know which educational interventions are most effective in helping these children learn to read.

The Reading Rockets website is all about reading. Here are some articles on dyslexia that will help you identify signs and find help, so that even if your children are born with dyslexia, they will grow up to be readers!

Also, it is helpful to keep in mind the many overlooked strengths of people with dyslexia. Current research is focused on understanding how to interpret and foster these strengths. You can find out more in this article from the International Dyslexia Association.


Question:

We scan materials for students to use on Kurzweil 3000 at school. Could you recommend an efficient way to scan and email a textbook page home to a student with dyslexia? He has Natural Reader on his home computer, but he does not have Kurzweil.

Answer:

There are several options that might be appropriate for this student or for others in a similar situation. Some scanners come with software enabling the user to scan directly into a PDF document; however, it is more likely that you will have to purchase either Adobe Acrobat or third-party software that will allow you to convert scanned documents into PDF.

Converting the scanned image would enable you to maintain the original layout of the document and still work with Natural Reader since it is capable of reading PDFs as well as MS Word documents. Having the capability to convert documents to PDF could also be beneficial for other students, as the newer versions of Adobe Reader have improved read out loud capabilities. This could be helpful for students who don't have access to a screen reader at home. You could convert any text to a PDF and students could hear it read aloud using the free Reader program.

If purchasing additional software is not a feasible option, you may also try searching for a digital version of the text online. Learning Ally has audio versions of many textbooks, and websites such as BookShare and Project Gutenberg have electronic books freely available for download (BookShare provides books free for users with documented print disabilities).


Question:

When I'm reading, it is helpful for me to both see and hear the word. Where can I find software that can read text to me when I'm online? I need something that can read websites and other text aloud to me.

Answer:

If you are regularly downloading articles or documents to read that are in PDF, you can use the built in screen reader in Adobe Acrobat Reader called Read Out Loud to hear any text in the document read aloud.

If you need assistance with reading MS Word documents, or to have the text of your writing read back to you for editing purposes, one good option might be WordTalk, a free program text-to-speech program for Microsoft Word. You can also use the built-in screen reader/text-to-speech features on your computer.

Both Microsoft and Apple have simple text-to-speech programs built into their operating systems. Microsoft's Narrator is relatively limited in features, and is intended for users with visual impairments. However, some of the features may be helpful for you. Apple's VoiceOver has similar capabilities and can assist users with reading typed text, windows, menus and controls.

If you are mostly concerned with being able to hear text on websites read aloud, you might consider ROKTalk. ROKTalk is a web-based application that allows you to hear any web text read out loud. Because it is web-based, you don't have to install software, which may be useful if you are using different computers (at the library, in the classroom, etc.). ROKTalk is free for a few websites (Google, Wikipedia, the BBC) and charges a monthly fee for unlimited access to any website. Browser-based apps such as Google Chrome's text-to-speech tool, SpeakIt! and Read&Write for Google Docs are also effective tools for online reading. Similarly, Natural Reader has free text-to-speech programs with limited functionality that may be sufficient for your needs. Several options are available from a basic copy for free download, to a more full-featured version for purchase.

If these free tools don't provide you with the level of functionality you need, you can also try searching the TechMatrix to find other text-to-speech products and compare features by selecting the Subject Area of Reading and the Learning Support of Access to multiple formats of text, notation, and symbols.


Question:

Some of our students read very slowly. We are wondering about providing recorded books. We would like to give them access to print as they learn to read. Can you tell us where we can get recorded books? Any advice on how to make the textbooks and other st

Answer:

Fortunately, there are now a number of fairly inexpensive ways to provide struggling readers with access to printed materials by providing text digitally, see An Educator's Guide to Making Textbooks Accessible and Usable for Students with Learning Disabilities. Once you have digital text, you have many options.

Many publishers now offer their textbooks on CD and teachers can easily scan print materials into their computer to create digital versions of texts. One of the easiest (and least expensive) ways to provide students with recorded text is use text-to-speech features built into your computer's operating system to read digitized text. These simple programs can read text files aloud for students and are freely available with all Windows and Macintosh operating systems. Although they lack more sophisticated control options and choices for speaking voices, they may be an appropriate solution for helping students read short pieces of text.

Another free option for helping students access text is to download books from a website such as Project Gutenberg or LibriVox. The books available from these sites are in the public domain, so you will not be able to find newer books here. However, they are freely available to all and may be a good solution for providing electronic versions of popular classics (Pride and Prejudice, A Christmas Carol, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, etc.). Files are usually available in HTML, PDF or Text format, which can then be read aloud using any text-to-speech program. The Adobe Reader has a built in Read Out Loud feature which allows the user to have any part of a PDF file read aloud. You could also use this feature with any hard copy text that you scan and save as a PDF.

A third option is to obtain audio books from Learning Ally. Membership is required in order to access audio books and a special player or software is necessary to play the books. Another site, Bookshare, provides digital talking books for students of any age with disabilities. Students with qualifying print disabilities can now access the entire Bookshare collection free of charge. Additionally, audio books can be ordered from websites such as Amazon, Audible, or Barnes & Noble. However, this option will likely be more expensive than the cost of a Learning Ally membership.

The most flexible option (and also the most expensive) would be to purchase software capable of converting text files into audio files. A quick internet search will reveal several downloadable programs for running text to audio conversions. However, for a school purchase, it might make sense to investigate programs that can be used for a variety of reading and writing tasks such as Kurzweil 3000, Proloquo, TextAloud and WYNN. With these tools, you can convert any text file to a sound file; students can then listen to text using an MP3 player, their computer or CD player. Using a scanner, you can easily scan any print material and create recorded text for your students for any book, textbook, handout, or article you use in your teaching.


Question:

My son is going into 11th grade. He has a learning disability with a very "hands on" learning style. However, he cannot write to save his life, take notes, etc. What computer programs do you recommend? What laptops would you recommend?

Answer:

An expanding array of technological devices provides new options for minimizing the writing difficulties experienced by students with learning disabilities. Programs and devices, such as talking word processors, word prediction programs, child-friendly voice recognition, and portable note-taking devices may assist your son with his writing.

Tech Tools for Students with Learning Disabilities: Infusion into Inclusive Classrooms will provide you with detailed information on each of these options.

Using Assistive Technology to Support Writing is another valuable resource that can assist you in selecting the best technologies to meet the needs of your son and may be worth sharing with his teachers to ensure that he has the support he needs in the classroom.

In October, check out the Tech Matrix, which will launch a new free online resource on writing products, reviewed for accessibility and instructional features. Related research on the use of technology for students with special needs will also be included with this tool to inform your decision on the best programs to provide support to meet your son's needs.


Question:

I work in a public library and want to be sure that our resources are accessible to all our patrons, including those with disabilities. What resources should we make available and where can we find additional information about making libraries accessible

Answer:

Many public libraries have grappled with the same issues, so looking at how other librarians have worked to make their libraries accessible is a good start. Many libraries provide their patrons with online resource lists (on accessible websites), in addition to offering a wide variety of accessibility options within the library building. It may be helpful to get in touch with other librarians, either online or in person to ask how they met their patrons' accessibility needs. The American Library Association has a number of excellent resources available to assist librarians in thinking about and respecting the needs of their patrons with disabilities. The ALA also has several options for connecting with other librarians, from online forums to an island in Second Life.

Some accessibility options for your patrons may include providing helpful links on your library website, pointing users to both local and national disability groups. Within the library, it is important to make sure that media is accessible — books on tape, audio books, captioned videos, descriptive videos, magnifiers and large print books can all help ensure that a variety of media is accessible to many of your patrons. Many librarians also provide patrons with assistive software and hardware where needed. This may include reading and writing software, software capable of reading text aloud (text-to-speech), software that can enlarge text on the screen or Braille embossers for blind patrons. Check out the Montgomery County Public Library website for a good example of the types of tools you might offer. For further ideas, check out the ALA's disability-specific Tip Sheets on Learning Disabilities, Children with Disabilities, Autism & Spectrum Disorders, and many others.

"You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me." — Strickland Gillilan